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Area races building a fun, family atmosphere


With warm weather comes outdoor activities, and many families will have the opportunity to run together this summer.

Running has become a family affair; it not only promotes a healthy lifestyle, but it provides adults and young children with an outlet and encourages confidence. Organizations such as Fredericksburg Area Running Club (FARC) and Virginia Runner, and events, like The Downtown Mile, Semper Fred and The Great Train Race, are making it possible for families to race together.

The Great Train Race, a one-miler and one of the few races specifically geared towards children and their families, fielded 1,200 runners last year. This year's race will be held on May 3rd.

"We try to encourage running from a young age," Jennifer Taylor, one of the race directors, said. "People bring signs and cowbells to cheer the runners on."

The Great Train Race is designed for ages 6 to 18; however, Taylor spoke about two additional races designed for children who don't feel comfortable running one mile.

"We have the half-mile George Dashington and the quarter-mile Caboose Run for the younger kids who are just starting out."

The George Dashington is geared towards 7- to 12-year-olds while the Caboose Run is for children ages 5 and under.

"They still get to hear the gun go off and feel the excitement of the day," Taylor said. "They all receive medals."

Proceeds from the race go to organizations such as Fredericksburg Area Service League and the Fredericksburg City Police Department.

"We like to give back to the community," Taylor said.

The Great Train Race is not the only family-driven race, however.

Aimee Weems, president of FARC and race director for The Downtown Mile, believes running not only promotes family but community as well.

The Downtown Mile, which will be held on July 18th, encourages runners ages 6 and up to participate and compete along with their peers in the one-mile race. One hundred eighty-six runners, including children, showed up last year to participate in the event, and Weems is hopeful for an even higher turnout this year.

"We are growing every year," Weems said.

The Downtown Mile benefits the Rappahannock Area CASA program, which assists abused and neglected children in the Fredericksburg area.

The one-mile, age-driven race also gives parents the opportunity to encourage their children.

"It's really sweet seeing parents encouraging their kids," Weems said. "And every child gets a medal when they cross the finish line."

Part of Marine Corps Historic Half weekend, the Semper Fred 5k will take place on May 17th. And parents aren't the only cheerleaders in that race.

"Marines encourage the runners along the way," Tami Faram, the Semper Fred race spokesperson, said. "Running is great for families, and each runner is presented with a finisher medal by a U.S. Marine if they take part in all three of the Historic Half races."

"A lot of people keep coming back each year," Faram said, "It's all about having fun together."

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Alex Gryder is a freelance writer and blogger who studied English and Film at the University of Mississippi. Her work has appeared in The Daily Mississippian, The View from Ventress Newsletter and Emerge the Magazine.

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